County commissioners will revisit the upcoming SPLOST referendum set to be on the ballot in March 2021 when they meet this week for a planning retreat at Callaway Gardens.
The vote for the one-cent sales tax had been scheduled for the Nov. 3 general primary, but the commission voted in June to postpone the referendum until March 16. The action was backed by at least three Carroll mayors, including Carrollton Mayor Betty Cason.
County leaders are still waiting for SPLOST revenue projections, county spokesperson Ashley Hulsey wrote in an email. Distribution percentages to the county’s municipalities will be discussed at a future meeting between the mayors and Commission Chairman Michelle Morgan.
However, in a previous Carrollton city council work session, Carrollton Finance Director Jim Triplett said the city expects to receive the same percentage of that money from the 2015 SPLOST, with the county receiving 62.39% of the funding and the City of Carrollton collecting $23.1 million, or 22.07%.
“This is going to be a moving number, and this is going to be a penny sales tax just like our regular sales tax,” Triplett said. “Determining what that may or may not do, with the economy and the pandemic that we’ve all been working our way through, this estimate has dropped somewhat since we originally started talking with the county two months ago.”
Carrollton city officials had planned $26 million worth of projects to be funded by the 2021 SPLOST but Triplett said $3 million has been taken off the city’s project list. These leaders have several projects they are hoping to complete, ranging from building new sports fields and facilities, to replacing Fire Station 23 and purchasing new fire engines.
“This is a renewal of the penny sales tax, not a new tax,” Morgan said at a meeting of city mayors in May. “The SPLOST is a way to fund our capital outlay projects without having to raise property taxes.”
The current SPLOST expires at the end of March 2021. If county voters do not approve the referendum that month, the commission must wait a year before it can be put on another ballot.
“The one downside potentially is that usually, your collections don’t start for one fiscal quarter after the election,” County Attorney Stacey Blackmon said. “There is an exception in the SPLOST Act where we can ask for a waiver to avoid a gap of that collection. The (state) Department of Revenue commissioner can grant a waiver if there are emergency circumstances.”
Morgan said the county’s roads and public safety will continue to be the top two priorities with the Board of Commissioners’ list of SPLOST projects. The county’s project list has 11 items on it, ranging from roads and public safety to courthouse facilities and economic development improvements.
During a meeting of government officials in May, Carrollton Mayor Cason suggested postponing the referendum to March to give officials across Carroll County more time to discuss the one-cent sales tax and assess financial revenues during the coronavirus pandemic.
Villa Rica Mayor Gil McDougal and Bowdon Mayor Jim Chaffin also supported postponing the referendum.
County leaders now have six months to discuss the projects and referendum they want to present to voters during the special election next spring.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Blackmon said government officials have been unable to meet in person and discuss potential projects to be funded by the SPLOST.
County officials also wanted to wait to see the results of the ESPLOST vote in June. The ESPLOST, which was approved by voters, is a sales tax that funds school projects.
The SPLOST has been around in Carroll County since 1987, and the sixth and current iteration of the sales tax began in 2015, according to the state’s Department of Revenue.
While in Callaway Gardens, the county commissioners will also discuss other items, such as the county courthouse and CARES Act before adjourning.